Between pointless meetings and email it’s exceedingly difficult to get work done while you’re actually at work. Time is scarce when your calendar looks like a game of Tetris, but you’d at least hope that all the time spent in meetings is put to good use. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case, and the fact of the matter is…
Holding effective meetings is just plain hard
It’s not that all meetings are bad. Meetings can be an effective means to reach immediate consensus and keep everyone on the same page, but it’s the pointless ones. The ones that could have been avoided. The ones with no agenda and more tangents than a Family Guy episode. You know, the ones with no actionable deliverables to follow up on afterwards? Not to be too dramatic, but these meetings are the bane of productivity’s existence.
Holding meetings that matter is difficult because it’s so hard to:
- reach decisions without bringing everyone together in one room,
- share a meeting agenda with your team that they can contribute to; and
- track deliverables to completion following a meeting.
At the end of the day, when it comes to collaborating with your team, meetings waste A LOT of your time and money. Here are three reasons why most meetings are pointless and are killing your team’s productivity.
1. Not all decisions require handshakes
There’s a common misconception in business: working together means working together in person. The sad part is that time spent together is not always time spent getting work done, and unfortunately, meetings are the default strategy for when decisions need to be made. The meetings that wind up wasting your team’s time are the ones that could have made use of fewer people and less time. Too many cooks in the kitchen is a threshold that applies to meetings too.
A team collaboration tool can make a huge difference in how your team makes decisions without always defaulting to a meeting, or even email. Especially since email mucks up collaboration so well. By connecting decision-makers in a single place online, consensus can be reached away from the conference room, avoiding the pointless meetings littered throughout your day.
Pro-Tip: Remote Group Think
Brainstorming remotely provides the necessary space to think creatively without being subjected to the thoughts and opinions of others. Ever wonder why you come up with your best ideas in the shower?
Meetings called to brainstorm the ‘next big idea’ are ineffective because they’re hampered by the fear of rejection – offering up a ‘dumb’ idea. Electronic (remote) brainstorming solves this problem – avoiding pointless meetings along the way.
2. Sharing a meeting agenda using email just doesn’t cut it
Distributing a meeting agenda that your meeting goers can participate in, contribute to, and discuss makes reaching decisions in your meetings easy and fast. Teams typically share meeting agendas with the help of email, Microsoft Word, and a shared network drive, but that doesn’t mean they should.
Email can turn conversation threads and file attachments into nasty time sinks – as attendees spend crucial work time deciphering which message relates to which agenda version. Instead of becoming a launching pad for productive collaboration, the agenda divides your team, stunting your meeting before it even starts. Think of the most dubious game of telephone you’ve ever played.
Meeting agendas are a critical component to an effective meeting, but how you share that agenda gets the meeting started on the right foot.
Pro-Tip: Create a clear meeting agenda
There are 4 key components to any meeting agenda.
- A clear meeting goal
- A concise meeting topic
- Proper estimation of the meeting’s length
- The agenda should be distributed 1 day in advance of the meeting
3. Tracking meeting deliverables is nearly impossible
If a meeting agenda is built as a living document, then it shouldn’t disappear when a meeting concludes, but rather it should become the source of work following the meeting. What occurs most times is quite the opposite. Meetings fizzle when there is no accountability or follow-through for the decisions and tasks created during the meeting.
When meeting agendas are created and shared via Word documents and email, it’s really hard to track meeting deliverables – the work that needs to get done. Holding attendees accountable for their deliverables is dispersed and trapped in various email messages and multiple versions of the agenda. Rather than receiving updates in one place, tracking work through to completion is an exhausting game of cat and mouse, rendering meetings pointless and limiting everyone’s productivity.
Pro-Tip: Assign action items to attendees
At Atlassian, we create and share all of our meeting agendas in one place using Confluence, our team collaboration tool. We have a template that we re-use for each and every meeting and make use of Confluence Tasks to assign action items to meeting attendees, ensuring work is followed-up on and completed once the meetings is over.
There’s a better way to collaborate
We’ve outlined the major reasons why most meetings are rendered pointless, and even provided a few tips to help avoid meetings that fizzle. Until the use of Word documents and email to create and share meeting agendas is put to rest, your quest to hold meetings that matter is truly futile. Simply put, you need:
- One place to create, share, and discuss a single version of your meeting agenda
- One place to update your meeting agenda as you conduct your meeting
- One place to track the completion of deliverables you identify in your meetings’
Make your meetings count with tasks
Confluence Tasks are tightly integrated with all of your work in Confluence. They’re contextual. Tasks are an important ingredient in transforming your meetings into launching pads for taking action and getting things done. Give meeting attendees deliverables they can be held responsible for.
Michael Lopp – Communication Cadence
Michael Lopp, author of renowned blog ‘Rands in Repose’ offers his advice about how best, as a manager (‘leader’), to hold one on one meetings with your employees. His presentation at Atlassian Summit 2012, entitled, ‘A Communication Cadence‘ highlights how good teams are the teams that communicate well.